Pole is Hamilton’s fifth straight, dating back to last year’s United States Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton took pole position for Mercedes for the season-opening Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix Saturday, fending off the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.Hamilton claimed his 62nd career pole position — sixth in Australia — with his final lap of the session after being embroiled in a fierce battle with new teammate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Vettel.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far,” said Hamilton. “It’s quite amazing to come here for, I think, my 11th time. It feels like only yesterday that I came and had my first race here in 2007.
“I’m just incredibly proud of my team. This rule change has been huge and such a massive challenge for everyone. The guys have worked just so hard to make this car what it is today and to be up here representing them, Valtteri did a fantastic job being that it’s his first qualifying session with the team; he’s done a great job, and it’s great for Mercedes.”
With eight minutes remaining on the clock, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo pushed too hard in Q3 and spun his car backward into the tire wall at turn 14. The red flags were shown while the car had to be recovered — but Hamilton held on and is ready for a close battle on Sunday.
“(I’m) looking forward to the race,” he said. “Obviously, it’s close between us all, so as you can see it’s going to be a tight race this year, I think.”
Sebastian Vettel was fastest in FP3 Saturday morning.
Vettel had topped the timesheets in the morning’s final practice session but will line up in second place — the first time that a Ferrari has been on the front row since Singapore 2015 and the first time that he has shared the front row with Hamilton since Bahrain 2015.
“I think we have a good car and I think we’re working well as a team,” said Vettel. “Things are improving so obviously, it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working and I think we had a mixed day yesterday. But the confidence in the car was there from testing, and we showed it again today.
“In the end, I was not entirely happy with my lap,” he said. “I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much, but I think Lewis did a very good lap so I don’t think — I would have loved to — but I don’t think pole was ours to grasp.
“But tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. As I’ve said, the car feels good. We’ve improved it, so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday.”
Valtteri Bottas will start his first Grand Prix for Mercedes from third place, just ahead of the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. Although happy with his overall performance, Bottas says that third place is not where he wants to be.
“Well you know, third position is not ideal,” said Bottas, whose previous best in qualifying at Albert Park was 15th. “In general, I’m not happy with the result but what I’m really happy about, I’m proud about, is what the team has done again with this car. I only saw a small part of the preparation with the new car, and it’s really nice to see that all of the work has paid off and we’re fighting at the very front.
“Obviously, it seems to be very close — at least here — but, myself, I just didn’t get any perfect laps in, so I’m not that satisfied. But tomorrow is the day that matters.
Qualifying Results: 2017 Rolex Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix
1. (44) Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m22.188s
2. (5) Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1m22.456s
3. (77) Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1m22.481s
4. (7) Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1m23.033s
5. (33) Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1m23.485s
6. (8) Romain Grosjean (Haas) 1m24.074s
7. (19) Felipe Massa (Williams) 1m24.443s
8. (55) Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) 1m24.487s
9. (26) Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) 1m24.512s
10. (3) Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) NTR